Live Reviews


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Elvis Costello and the Imposters
Sony Centre for the elvis_costello-0038Performing Arts, Toronto
June 23, 2011

Elvis Costello and the Imposters brought a carnival sideshowʼs worth of stage props and assistants, pro and amateur, to colourful life Thursday night in Toronto as part of the second leg of this yearʼs well-received Spectacular Spinning Songbook tour. The show resurrected the whacky concept Costello legendarily brought to concert-goers initially in 1986, in which audience members are selected to spin a roulette-style wheel of songs. [More…]

The Tragically Hip Rock Out At “Secret” Show
Lee’s Palace, Toronto
February 20, 2002

Wednesday night, when the Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team was set to play a must-win game against Team Finland, nationalistic fervour was running high inside Lee’s Palace in Toronto. But that was only partly because of the impending hockey showdown. The 500-capacity club was filled with fans who had come to see Canada’s favourite band, The Tragically Hip, in a rare club show—a surprise charity concert that had been announced only that day at noon, prompting diehard fans to line up for hours in the rain until the doors opened at 5 p.m. [More…]

Lucinda Williams
Convocation Hall, Toronto
October 3, 1999

With her latest album, 1998’s magnificent Car Wheels On A Gravel Road recently certified gold in the U.S.A., and riding a wave of critical acclaim which included a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album, one would be justified in thinking that Lucinda Williams and band could do no wrong as they descended into the hallowed circle of Convocation Hall on this rainy night on the thin edge of October. Unless, that is, one had witnessed some of her late-night television talk show appearances in recent months where her performances resembled more a deer caught in the headlights than an unstoppable musical juggernaut. [More…]

Elvis Costello & Steve Nieve
Massey Hall, Toronto
June 16, 1999

It had been 21 years since Elvis Costello last played Massey Hall. That was back in the heady days of 1977-78; what people like to refer to as his angry punk days. Contrast that with his last Toronto appearance—three years ago at the Warehouse when he was carrying in his suitcase the collection of deftly crafted songs from that year’s All This Useless Beauty album. This time around, Costello was holding in his pocket a bevy of songs from last year’s acclaimed collaboration with Burt Bacharach, Painted From Memory. And while the ’96 show was brilliant, there was something about the new songs, the sparse arrangements, the minimal stage setting and subtle lighting, and the feeling inside old Massey that just seemed right. [More…]

Elliott Smith
The Opera House, Toronto
April 1, 1999

An all-ages crowd packed Toronto’s Opera House this past April Fool’s Day to see Portland, Oregon’s Elliott Smith. Sporting a vintage black Rolling Stones U.S. tour lips-and-tongue t-shirt and his perennial puppy-in-the-rain hair, Smith spent the evening entirely on electric guitar, supported by a bass player and drummer. Working with such a bare-bones combo meant some of the subtleties and frills of his studio material had to be abandoned. On his recordings, it sometimes seems like Smith steps out of an alleyway, tugs gently at your sleeve and then softly whispers his finely spun intimacies in your ear. And you can do nothing but stop and listen. In live performance, it’s a bit of a different proposition. The voice is more insistent; the tug more like a grab. You WILL listen. [More…]

The Flashing Lights
The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto
June 12, 1999

Crunchy chords, power licks and high kicks were the order of the day as festival-goers crammed into the Legendary Shoehorn (read: it was fucking packed, baby!) Saturday night to get a dose of The Flashing Lights. Matt Murphy & Co. gave them all that and more. [More…]

Lee’s Palace, Toronto
June 11, 1999

I don’t know if Ireland can lay claim to cornering the market on self-aggrandizing, ego-maniacal lead singers, but there’s only room for a few, and Bono already has at least two spots reserved for himself. So it was with a mixture of dismay and boredom that I sat through the ridiculously silly set by Cork’s own Cyclefly at Lee’s Palace Friday night. [More…]

The Carnations
Bovine Sex Club, Toronto
March 5, 1999

“We’re the Carnations. We’re here to play rock,” announced the guitarist/spokesperson as this young Southern Ontario quartet took the stage at the Bovine Sex Club Friday night. The music that followed proved to be as straightforward as that introduction. [More…]